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Carter v. Fairchild-Carter

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

March 29, 2018

JAMES D. CARTER, Appellant,
v.
TINA L. FAIRCHILD-CARTER, Respondent.

          Calendar Date: January 17, 2018

          Briggs Norfolk LLP, Lake Placid (Matthew D. Norfolk of counsel), for appellant.

          MaryAnne Bukolt-Ryder, Plattsburgh, for respondent.

          Before: Egan Jr., J.P., Devine, Mulvey, Aarons and Rumsey, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AARONS, J.

         Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court (Ryan, J.), entered August 15, 2016 in Clinton County, which, among other things, denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff (hereinafter the husband) and defendant (hereinafter the wife) were married in 2008. Their relationship, however, faltered and, in 2014, the husband commenced this action for a judgment of separation under Domestic Relations Law § 200. The wife answered and asserted a counterclaim for a judgment of divorce. The wife also sought maintenance and equitable distribution of the marital assets. The husband thereafter moved for summary judgment requesting that Supreme Court grant the wife's counterclaim for a judgment of divorce and to enforce the parties' prenuptial agreement. The wife, among other things, opposed the husband's motion on the basis that the prenuptial agreement was not valid. Supreme Court, among other things, denied the husband's motion for summary judgment. The husband now appeals. We affirm.

         "It is well settled that duly executed prenuptial agreements are generally valid and enforceable given the 'strong public policy favoring individuals ordering and deciding their own interests through contractual arrangements'" (Van Kipnis v Van Kipnis, 11 N.Y.3d 573, 577 [2008], quoting Bloomfield v Bloomfield, 97 N.Y.2d 188, 193 [2001]). The party seeking to vitiate the prenuptial agreement "bears the burden of proving the impediment attributable to the proponent seeking enforcement" (Matter of Greiff, 92 N.Y.2d 341, 344 [1998]). Such agreements will be enforced absent proof of fraud, duress, overreaching or unconscionability (see Christian v Christian, 42 N.Y.2d 63, 72-73 [1977]; Herr v Herr, 97 A.D.3d 961, 962 [2012], lv dismissed 20 N.Y.3d 904');">20 N.Y.3d 904 [2012]; Matter of Garbade, 221 A.D.2d 844, 845 [1995], lv denied 88 N.Y.2d 803');">88 N.Y.2d 803');">88 N.Y.2d 803');">88 N.Y.2d 803 [1996]).

         We conclude that the husband satisfied his summary judgment burden (see McKenna v McKenna, 121 A.D.3d 864, 866 [2014]). The husband admitted the allegations in the wife's counterclaim for a judgment of divorce. He also submitted the prenuptial agreement executed by both parties, which provided that they waived their right to equitable distribution and maintenance. It further recited that each party consulted with his or her legal counsel and had been advised by such counsel of their respective rights and obligations. The husband likewise averred in an affidavit that the prenuptial agreement was negotiated at arm's length and the parties were represented by counsel throughout the negotiations.

         In view of the foregoing, the burden shifted to the wife as the party challenging the validity of the prenuptial agreement (see Tremont v Tremont, 35 A.D.3d 1046, 1047 [2006]). Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the wife, we find that the wife carried her burden of raising a material issue of fact. In opposition to the husband's motion, the wife submitted an affidavit in which she provided a contrasting version of events surrounding the execution of the prenuptial agreement. She stated therein that shortly before the wedding day, the husband presented her with a prenuptial agreement. The wife, on the advice of her counsel, told the husband that she could not sign it or marry him unless he made some changes - namely, that she would get half the value of the land and house where they resided and 50% of everything they acquired during the marriage. The wife further averred that, on "the very day before the wedding" and as she was making final preparations for the wedding, the husband presented her with a revised prenuptial agreement, told her that he had made the requested changes and assured her that she would be taken care of for the rest of her life. [1]

         Moreover, the wife stated that she was given this new prenuptial agreement while standing outside the County Clerk's office and that the husband "didn't really give [her] time to even read the document, let alone take it back to the lawyer to look at it again." She stated that she was feeling stressed and pressured with the wedding planning and "just signed the document." These facts, if credited, give rise to the inference of overreaching (see Leighton v Leighton, 46 A.D.3d 264, 265 [2007], appeal dismissed 10 N.Y.3d 739');">10 N.Y.3d 739');">10 N.Y.3d 739');">10 N.Y.3d 739 [2008]; cf. Sheridan v Sheridan, 202 A.D.2d 749, 751 [1994]; Vandenburgh v Vandenburgh, 194 A.D.2d 957, 959 [1993]). Accordingly, Supreme Court properly denied the husband's summary judgment motion. [2]

          Egan Jr., J.P., Devine and Mulvey, JJ., concur.

          Rumsey, J. (concurring).

         I concur in the majority's determination that defendant (hereinafter the wife) carried her burden of raising a material issue of fact by submitting facts that, if credited, give rise to an inference of overreaching by plaintiff (hereinafter the husband). However, I write to express my concern that the majority's determination that the wife met her burden based upon allegations that she was pressured into signing the prenuptial agreement on the day prior to the wedding without reading it establishes a dramatically lower standard for challenging prenuptial agreements that contravenes our long-standing precedent. I would not find overreaching in this case but for the wife's allegation that the husband's affirmative misrepresentation of the ...


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